Unsurprisingly, Oscar Nominees Like to Donate to Democrats

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The Sunlight Foundation's Lindsay Young has a timely report investigating the political donations of those lucky few whose names appear on the list of nominees for this weekend's Academy Awards, and -- wonder of wonders -- these Hollywood types tend to give a lot of money to Democrats, reaffirming that not much can shake the film industry's faith in their favorite party. 

Some leaders in the Oscar-contender pack, as reported by Young:

  • Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of DreamWorks Animation, which counts War Horse, The Help, and Kung Fu Panda 2 among its Oscar nominees, has donated $2 million to Obama's Super PAC. 
  • Steven Spielberg, who produced War Horse, has spent $1.6 million over time, mostly giving to Democratic campaigns.
  • Kathleen Kennedy, Spielberg's co-producer on War Horse, has spent $369,000 on Democratic candidates and groups over time.*

There are about a dozen more names on the list, proving that, despite periodic hand-wringing that Hollywood might sour on Obama after he broke with the industry over its support of SOPA, it seems an unlikely possibility. (That's something we've noted each time the concern rises.) The Sunlight Foundation is also doing typical due diligence by investigating the ways an administration that receives big money from a certain industry tailors its policies to benefit that industry. Young writes:

And while the Obama administration angered the Motion Picture Association of America's President Chris Dodd with its move to stop the Stop Online Piracy Act, it was successful in securing an agreement with China to accept more movies into its domestic market. 

In a statement, Dodd thanked both Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao for their efforts to "fight movie piracy and help protect the jobs of workers in both countries." DreamWorks just announced it is opening a studio in Shanghai, Oriental DreamWorks, with two state-owned media companies. Last year, the Chinese online video site Youku.com agreed to distribute the Kung Fu Panda movies, according to the Los Angles Times.

But we're not sure that this exposure of a "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" relationship between Democrats and the film industry is very relevant. As Democratic fundraiser John Emerson told the Los Angeles Times this month, "Hollywood money for the most part is actually quite pure. It's given by people who really believe in the issues. They're not writing the checks because they're after some regulatory change." And, as The Atlantic Wire's John Hudson noted this month, if anyone in the film industry is likely to follow through on threats to cut Obama off, it's the more corporate types like Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, not actors like George Clooney, who fill out Sunlight's list of Oscar nominees who donate. 
It's always a nice exercise to cast sunlight on the relationship between Hollywood and the Democratic Party, and the Oscars provide a nice timely peg to revisit that. But it's in no way surprising. After all, we're in an Oscar year in which three of the nine Best Picture nominees take place in France! France! And we all know how Republicans feel about that country... 
*Sunlight originally incorrectly reported that Kennedy had donated $3.6 million to Democratic groups, and we reported based on their figures. Sunlight corrected their article, and so we've changed the post to reflect the accurate figure. Apologies for the error.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.